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By Bransen P. Harper

Miriam Raftery contributed to this story

Photos via Wikipedia: Former President Donald J. Trump; likely prosecution witnesses Stormy Daniels, an adult film star, and Karen McDougal, an ex-Playboy model

April 20, 2024 (New York, NY) – Twelve jurors and six alternates have been selected in the federal criminal case against Donald J. Trump in Manhattan, the New York Times reports. Opening arguments by the prosecution and Trump's lawyers are slated to begin Monday in the case, which accuses the former President and presumptive Republican nominee of funneling hush money payments through his lawyer to prevent negative information from surfacing during his 2016 presidential campaign.

Ahead of this first-ever criminal trial  of a former president, which has no clear historical precedent in the U.S., here are the essentials to know.

Paying hush money is not a crime, but falsifying business records is a criminal act. The prosecution contends that Trump falsified records in order to circumvent campaign finance laws and interview with the 2016 election, crimes that are considered felonies.

Trump has pleaded not guilty to the 34 counts of falsifying business records. These include ‘hush money’ payments to porn star Stormy Daniels made through Trump’s lawyer, Michael Cohen, who already spent time in prison for his role in the transactions..  National Enquirer Publisher Michael Pecker, a former Trump ally, is expected to testify that he paid  “catch and kill” fees to bury a story about Playboy model Karen McDougal, who claimed to have an affair with Trump,  and to hide a Trump Tower doorman’s claim that Trump  fathered a child out of wedlock.

 Payments totaled $130,000 to Stormy Daniels in an attempt to keep her quiet during Trump’s first bid for the presidency back in 2016 about a possible affair, which Daniels has stated was not ‘perfectly consensual,’ MSNBC reports. Trump has vehemently denied this claim.

The trial got off to a rocky start with the former president nodding off several times during jury selection. Trump drew admonishment from the judge for repeatedly violating gag orders. The prosecution alleges those violations include posts on his social media account on Truth Social, including calling his former lawyer Michael Cohen, a key government witness, a “serial perjurer,” the Washington Post reports.

Two jurors selected were later dismissed. An oncology nurse asked to be dismissed over concerns about media reports that aired details enabling people to guess her identity. Another was dismissed after prosecutors found he had lied about being arrested; in fact had been arrested for tearing down political posters.

Trump’s team filed a motion to have Judge Juan Merchan recuse himself from the case due to the fact that his daughter works for a political firm that has Democrats as clients. Judge Merchan has commentated on this matter, stating, “To say that these claims are attenuated is an understatement. The court will not address this matter further,” he Independent reported.  Courts do not consider actions of a family member to be a conflict of interest for a judge, unless the judge profits finally from a family member’s activities.

Outside the courthouse, there have been mobs of MAGA supporters along with counter-protesters coming out in order to support the former president or deride him, respectively. With tensions rising, a man lit himself on fire in the designated protest area and later perished of his wounds. Police have since identified the man as Maxwell Azzarello of St. Augustine, Florida, NBC reports.  The man had touted conspiracy theories that bizarrely linked both Trump and Biden.

Trump has objected to having to be in court each day of the trial, which is customary for criminal defendants but is restricting his campaign appearances. “"I am sitting in a courthouse all day long," the former president said, CNN reports, calling the situation "unfair."

Several last-ditch efforts by Trump’s attorneys to delay the trial have failed.

With the trial set to commence on Monday, Trump and the nation are gearing up  for a chaotic case that could take weeks before a verdict will likely be rendered.

Although this is the first trial of a former U.S. president on criminal charges, it likely won’t be the last. Trump has been charged with 91 felony counts in four cases. Those include special prosecutor Jack Smith’s federal case over alleged Trump efforts to overturn the 2020 election, mishandling of classified documents alleged in a federal espionage case in Florida, and a Georgia state case accusing Trump and others of a conspiracy to pressure election workers to alter election results.





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“The Threat” by Andrew G. McCabe

Former Deputy Director of the FBI, Andrew G. McCabe, in his book "The Threat", reviewed by this writer in the East County Magazine, gives insight into the current criminal trial of former President Donald Trump. There is actually an audio recording of the author in the review that one can click on and listen to.

Book Reviews about former President Donald Trump!

Having written the my review initial review of former President Donald Trump's book; "Make America Great Again", subject story comes as a big surprise to me, as several other book reviews by me in the East County Magazine would follow, namely "Peril" by Bob Woodward and Robert Costa, "The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump" by Bandy Lee, "Hacks" by Donna Brazille, "American Kompromat" by Craig Unger and "Threat" by a fired federal government agent. As a matter of fact, the editor and founder of the East County Magazine, Miriam Raftery, actually contacted me while I was in my hometown of Chicago and asked me if she could coax me out of retirement to write the review of "Peril", which I readily agreed, as I realized the historical significance of the book.

Thank you, Dennis.Peril, by famed Watergate journalist

Bob Woodward, did indeed lay out evidence of Trump's unfitness for office.  Interestingly, I heard Woodward speak in San Diego and he mentioned his surprise when Trump offered to show him a classified document, before  Trump was charged with mishandling classified materials. Woodward is of course a highly credible reporter, as one of two whose coverage exposed Nixon's crimes and led to Nixon's resignation.